Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Diane Overflows Morgan Lake, Aug. 1955

Hurricane Sandy has nearly completed her tour through Dutchess County and has certainly left some areas worse for wear, but thankfully the upper part of Smith Street was spared from being flooded by Morgan Lake. This was not the case last year. Hurricane Irene caused Morgan Lake to rapidly overflow into Smith Street. Below is an iWitness Weather video uploaded on August 28, 2011 on The Weather Channel website of Morgan Lake waters rushing into Smith Street.

As many of you know, I am researching the short life of the Morgan Lake Amusement Park, which opened on August 13, 1955 and was owned and operated by the late Joseph Yellen and his son Don Yellen of Fishkill, NY. Recently, Richard Alexander, a Poughkeepsie native, contacted me through the Facebook group If you grew up in Poughkeepsie, NY and shared the following memory:

   Richard Alexander My feeble memory tells me this place was only open a few weeks when it was demolished by a hurricane and never re-opened

This was a great lead. On a day off from work, I went to Adriance Library and scanned through the August 1955 microfilm reel of the Poughkeepsie New Yorker until I came across a small advertisement that read, "...OPENING TOMORROW... Morgan Lake Amusement Park," which finally gave me the official opening date for the Amusement Park (August 13, 1955).

Weeks earlier, most of the paper's headlines discussed the drought that Dutchess County was suffering through. These notices shifted very quickly to warnings that Hurricane Connie may "pound" the area. On the very same day that the Amusement Park opened, the Poughkeepsie New Yorker reported that Connie did hit several trees and power lines in Dutchess County. Before much of the area could recover, a second hurricane (Diane) swept through the area causing destructive flooding in areas including Pleasant Valley and the upper part of Smith Street. On August 19, 1955, the cover page of the Poughkeepsie New Yorker included a short report and photograph of the William W. Smith apartments flooded by waters that overflowed from Morgan Lake. Twenty families needed to be evacuated from the building.1

Surprisingly another "Now Open" advertisement for the Morgan Lake Amusement Park was printed on August 20, 1955; the very next day after the flood. It must have been impossible for cars to drive up Creek Road from Smith Street and Salt Point Turnpike. And even if it was possible for cars to reach the Amusement Park driving south on Creek Road from Pendell Road and Violet Avenue, how many were actually out on the road?

Did Hurricane Diane force the Morgan Lake Amusement Park to close? Were there other factors at play? If you have any further information please write to morganlakepoughkeepsie@gmail.com